Is Vinicius Jr. the sign of an upcoming evolution at Real Madrid?
Image: Agencia de Noticias ANDES, CC-by-2.0
For almost nine years, Real Madrid was synonymous with Cristiano Ronaldo. They've had many ‘galacticos’ plays for them over the years. But there has never been one as successful as him. With his departure, Real Madrid now has to re-explore themselves to find a new path to success.
With Ronaldo at their fore, they never had to worry about goals. The Portuguese scored more than 40 goals a season for eight years on the trot. Most find it difficult to hit that number for a single season. Real need to find their next star man.
Julen Lopetegui found himself at the short end of the bargain as he was sacked from two of the most prestigious jobs in football within a span of four months. His exit from the Santiago Bernabeu was driven by a strange lack of goals in Madrid’s 14 games under his charge. The bulk of that is due to Florentino Perez’s inability to sign a forward with similar goal-scoring prowess.
However, that’s only half-true. Los Blancos signed Mariano Diaz and Vinicius Jr. during the summer. But Diaz is yet to score on his second coming, while Vinicius was relegated to the Castilla, up until recently.
While Santiago Solari’s appointment did not imbue excitement in most of the Madridistas, it should still work out for Madrid by the time the season ends. The basis of it all will be Solari’s experience with the Castilla and the talent in that squad.
Their recent match against Real Valladolid was Solari’s first La Liga game as a coach. Yet, he promoted Sergio Reguilon, Federico Valverde and Vinicius Jr. to the matchday squad. Reguilon started the match at left-back and Vinicius came on in the second half to score his first goal for Los Blancos.
At a time when Gareth Bale is misfiring and Karim Benzema has lost his early season form, it only seems right to offer opportunities to the youth. The same question had been asked of Lopetegui. Unfortunately, there had been no answer.
However, Solari might be the one who finally unlocks the Madrid’s youth talent vault. Ever since James Rodriguez was signed, Perez has gone quiet on his ‘galactico’ policy. Instead, he quietly invested in youth from all parts of the world. Vinicius Jr., Martin Odegaard, Achraf Hakimi, Sergio Reguilon, Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Mariano Diaz are examples of that ideology.
These are all talented prospects at various stages of development that Perez collected in an effort to grow from within rather than waste millions later on. While this policy has been in effect for some time, it might finally be the time to reap the fruits. And Solari might be Madrid’s, Pep Guardiola.
This conclusion is not a product of a single deflected goal from Vinicius Jr. but a culmination of multiple factors ending with Solari’s appointment and the young prospects’ promotion. A look at Achraf Hakimi’s six assists and one goal in eight appearances for Borussia Dortmund will tell you that Reguiilon and Vinicius aren’t the exceptions. Rather, they are part of the rule.
The existing spine in Real Madrid’s first team is ageing. Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and Luka Modric are all part of the 30-plus club. Solari’s experience with youth and the existent talent pool might finally bring about an evolution at Real Madrid and Vinicius might be the next big-hero for the Bernabeu.